McConnell raises pressure on Johnson over Ukraine: ‘Finish the job’

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Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Thursday again pressed Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to take up the Senate-passed national security spending package, which includes $60 billion for Ukraine, despite Johnson’s message to GOP senators this week that he’s moving in a different direction.

McConnell didn’t express much interest in waiting weeks or maybe months for the House to come up with an alternative proposal to help Ukraine.

“The chilling reality here is abundantly clear. Withholding critical weapons has not helped manage [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s escalation. It has only emboldened him,” McConnell warned on the Senate floor.

That alternative proposal seemingly would be centered on setting up a loan or lend-lease program or seizing an estimated $300 billion in Russian assets to pay for arming Ukrainian forces.

“Equipping Ukraine for battlefield success is the surest way to help our friends resolve this war from a position of strength,” McConnell said. “Investing in our own military and our own defense industrial capacity at the same time just makes common sense.

“It’s time for the House to take up the Senate-passed national security supplemental and finish the job,” he declared.

McConnell’s comments came a day after Johnson told Republican senators at the annual Senate GOP retreat that he would send a Ukrainian assistance package to the Senate but it would look much different than the $95 billion emergency foreign aid bill that senators passed last month.

Johnson floated the idea of setting up a loan or lend-lease program for Ukraine and seizing Russian assets to pay for arming Ukrainian troops on the battlefield, but putting together an entirely new bill could take weeks or months.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, sounded skeptical about setting up a loan program for Ukraine instead of sending direct military aid.

“I’ll consider any option that’s put out there. I think a loan would impose a further burden on Ukraine right now at a time when they don’t need it, but if that’s what it takes to get aid through, I’d be willing to consider,” Collins said after Johnson’s remarks to GOP senators.

McConnell warned on Tuesday that making significant changes to the Senate-passed bill funding Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific region could delay it for weeks.

“I want to encourage the Speaker again to allow a vote, a vote. Let the House speak on the supplemental that we sent over to them several weeks ago,” he said.

McConnell poured water on the idea of transforming Ukraine aid into a loan program.

“The only way to get relief to the Ukrainians and the Israelis quickly is for the House to figure out how to pass the Senate bill. Anything that’s changed and sent back here … even the simplest thing can take a week in the Senate,” he said.

“We don’t have time for all of this. We got a bill that got 70 votes in the Senate. Give the members of the House of Representatives an opportunity to vote on it. That’s the solution,” he argued.  

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